By Adi Berardini
CW: Sexual assault
In the sadly saturated rape culture that we live in and the rise of the #MeToo movement, Saffron A’s music is more than timely. In their song “Priceless Advice,” victim-blaming statements are combined in a high energy pop-folk song. Through the strumming of strong chords, the song comments on the absurdity of shaming sexual assault survivors instead of holding rapists responsible. Saffron A sings them with an ironic joy, and through that, asks their audience to join them on a journey exploring and challenging toxic masculinity and rape culture. In this song, they reclaim their power over the narrative that the behaviour of those affected by sexual assault is the root cause of their trauma.
Their lyrics mention a cop that blames what the victim is wearing for an assault, insisting that the perpetrator is simply “over-friendly.” It’s a narrative that many of us know all too well—not being taken seriously in our experience of pain and sexual assault. These words are difficult to write as I know it well myself. Too often, the responsibility is burdened on the survivor for what was ultimately a violation of trust and abuse of power. It takes a lot of healing after being sexually assaulted, and it can feel like the wound is still open at times. Saffron A uses their own experience to heal and also bring these problematic narratives to light.
Additionally, the lyrics of “Priceless Advice” state, “wear boots so you can run away” and “don’t hang out on that side of town, maybe you should just stay inside.” The haunting statements of “don’t be so enticing, don’t be so inviting,” ring through the speaker. It’s the censorship of women’s behaviour instead of accountability that grinds away at me in hearing these statements. The culture of victim-blaming is the fuel that perpetuates these narratives and breeds shame that should not exist.
The song also has a more hopeful outlook when Saffron sings in the chorus that they will “wear what they like” and that they’re “not going to hide anymore.” It reclaims the bodily autonomy that feels so lost in the aftermath of a sexual assault. Saffron looks toward the possibility to move past these toxic assumptions and the disbelief of survivors in recounting their own experiences. Saffron contests being objectified in a public space, because, like the rest of us, they are tired of it.
On the Resistance tour, Saffron A has brought along with them a pair of “consent pants,” which are jeans they ask the audience to write on them with markers about what consent means to them. “What began as a collaboration with Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent (ASCC), quickly became a community art project,” Saffron A explains. “I co-hosted two concerts at the beginning of my Resilience Tour with ASCC, and they wanted to have an artistic element at the events. I suggested we ask folks to write/draw/express what consent means to them on a pair of jeans.”
The consent pants travelled from Brantford to Montreal, all the way up to Sudbury and beyond. I wrote on the jeans myself at the live show here at the Brown and Dickson Bookstore in London, saying that consent, to me, was “mutual respect.” Writing on these jeans evoked a lot of emotions, mainly since I had to think about what consent personally meant to me. The dictionary defines consent as “permission” or “agreement.” The pants say phrases such as “communication is key,” and “no consent on stolen land,” bringing up what consent looks like when Canadians occupy the land of Indigenous peoples outside of a mutual agreement. Both the consent pants and Saffron A’s music spark an essential conversation—when we don’t discuss consent, it masquerades its meaning, making it easier to become a grey area. The lack of understanding of consent only creates the potential to hurt others. Consent is something rooted in genuine care, and it’s an agreement that is so closely tied to power and trust.
Saffron A taps into their own vulnerability through their music and uses it as a tool for healing—they reclaim their own power and autonomy. Their music echoes so strongly in a society that perpetuates shame for rape survivors. Challenging toxic assumptions and how survivors are not taken seriously, they approach the subject in an open and engaging way. As they sing, “I’d laugh if I wasn’t terrified, I wouldn’t have to sing this song if this behaviour wasn’t going on.” Saffron A initiates the conversation about rape culture and sexual assault and asks us to collectively do better.